Hyères, the oldest resort on the French Riviera, was the Fitgeralds’ first stop when they went to the South of France in 1924 to live more cheaply while Scott worked on The Great Gatsby. I’ve been a few times. Like most French resorts, it’s a mixture of shithole and paradise. You’re not supposed to notice the fucking awful traffic, the post-apocalyptic industrial estates, or the air of faded elegance. Instead, you’re supposed to take in the sunshine and blue skies, the palm trees, and the pavement cafés. Park and ride: leave your car where it looks like you’ll get your wheels stolen, and wait for the mini bus that will drive you – not far – up across the busy dual carriageway and into the centre of the old town.
It was on one such visit that I stumbled across a record shop with an interesting selection of what used to be euphemistically called rarities.
And there was this Beatles compilation. For some reason, the idiot photographer (me) didn’t snap the front cover, just the track listing:
- WHATEVER GETS YOU THRU’ THE NIGHT
- BAND ON THE RUN
- GIVE ME LOVE
- MY LOVE
- HI, HI, HI.
- BACK OF (sic) BOOGALOO
- MY SWEET LORD
- ANOTHER DAY
- YOU’RE SIXTEEN
- JUNIOR’S FARM
Oh, yeah, I remember now. This record shop was round the back of Boogaloo. I didn’t buy the vinyl bootleg, because I have a hard pragmatic streak and don’t own a turntable. Nor do I like giving money to people who don’t pay royalties to the artists. We did buy a couple of CDs, and there was some kind of freebie because the owners liked my kids. My kids are good kids.
I’ve written about Imaginary Beatles albums before, and I’ve made more than a few compilations. But until yesterday, I’d completely forgotten about this odd record I found in a Hyères back street.
So I’ve put it together as an Apple Music playlist (sorry, Spotify, but I won’t have you in the house). Because… well, what even is this, as the saying goes.
There are only two John Lennon songs. Two from George. And two from Ringo. The other half of the twelve tracks are Paul songs. Possibly, whoever put this thing together (and went as far as pressing vinyl and designing/printing a sleeve) was on Team Paul. So whatever the rationale, we’ve ended up with something a long way from the 4-4-4-2 proposal of September 1969.
Which brings me to dates.
My Sweet Lord dates from 1970, while Whatever Gets You Thru’ The Night comes from 1974. And that’s really the spread of dates. Without going too deeply into this, it seems as if this record is a compilation of former Beatles (chart?) singles. In other words, this isn’t someone’s conception of a post-breakup Beatles album. This is a galaxy brain imagining of what a (Christmas 1974?) post-breakup Beatles Greatest Hits compilation would look like, something like the Hey Jude album or Past Masters.
So how does it play?
I’m not an Elton John person, nor am I (in general) a saxophone person, so I’ve never really liked ‘Whatever Gets You Thru’ The Night’ – but it works here as a high-energy opener. And perhaps because it’s John singing with another voice, it sounds a bit like it could be the Beatles.
‘Band on the Run’ is an authentic classic, and Beatle-ish in that way of all Paul’s fragment songs, which is really an idea nicked off The Who (‘A Quick One’). There is a moment, when the backing vocals join in on the line ‘If we ever get out of here’ that really sounds as close to John. And Paul’s drumming often sounds Ringo-like.
And so it goes. I think it’s actually not a bad listen. The fact that all these tracks were singles means that the quality is consistently high. What’s surprising is that I don’t think this track listing would ever turn up on someone’s idea of an Imaginary Beatles album. Too much Paul, for a start. But if you’re prepared to suspend disbelief on that aspect, this is very good. Arguably, you could add in ‘Instant Karma’ and ‘Mind Games’ (which didn’t trouble the top ten but fits into the period), and you’d have 14 tracks, and only a little bias towards Paul. But then Paul didn’t put out Some Time in New York City, did he?